War Leaders: Clash of Nations Reader Review
I bought it. I'd heard some bad things about it (zero support from the devs and no patches - actually a patch did come out, though), but decided to give it a whirl because it was on special offer. Here is my review of the battle system:
There is a wonderful choice of factions. This is the first WW2 game I've ever seen where you can actually play as the French or the Italians (yes, they were in WW2! Some of it, anyway.). The only problem is, the game tries to make all factions equal in strength and to have the same types of units, so you end up with nonsensical units like Japanese paratroops.
Graphically, it's beautiful. The level of detail of individual units is breathtaking - the soldiers even have facial expressions, and sometimes sit down when they are bored. However, my laptop won't play smoothly on max settings, so I have to lower them somewhat - it's still good enough, though, if gameplay is more what you are after.
Unfortunately, this is where everything falls apart. An average game will start with you spending 10 minutes or so at the beginning putting units into strategic positions, while the enemy doesn't do anything. After the 'start' button is pressed, the enemy will either dig in and wait for you to attack (thereby meaning all of your painstaking placement of units into defensive positions was a waste of time) or the entire enemy army will attack en-masse, essentially a mad rush at your nearest units using everything they have. They will spend a few minutes banging away at this position until they move onto another one, and again all of them - so basically what you have is a huge morass of units all rolling around the map.
The maps (loads of them!) are really good, the only problem being that the enemy AI tends to get its entire army lost if it moves around too much and ends up on a ridge with no way out because it's blocking itself, or sometimes the enemy takes so long to get round 'that big hill in the middle of the map' that the 30-minute time limit is up before a shot is fired. In fact, the maps are huge, so a lot of your time is spent chasing the enemy round as it goes sightseeing trying to find you - and very often games end after 30 minutes before much fighting has happened and you end up getting a minor victory or even a minor defeat despite the fact that the enemy spent most of its time running away. This is especially annoying in campaign battles, because more often than not, the fate of the entire country you are invading depends on a single (under-strength) infantry unit of 5 or 6 men and a jeep who all split up and you have to kill them all before the time limit is up in order to claim the territory for your campaign.
The AI is horrific. I dropped some Russian paratroops behind my Italian enemy during one of the 'quick battles' and they were charged by artillery! When have you ever seen men pick up heavy artillery guns and rush them at an enemy ?!
Ammo and fuel play a major part in the game (though this can be switched off), and can make some strange unexpected endings - I was playing a game where I was the Japanese against the Soviets and my army was decimated pretty quickly until the Soviets ran out of ammo and I won with only one Chi-Ha tankette left.
The damage system is not very good, either. It seems that every unit has a countdown metre, and also that any unit can damage it (nothing about gun penetration abilities versus armour thickness). On the other hand, airstrikes are ineffective - even carpet bombing fails utterly to do any damage at all to enemy units (even infantry) - they might as well be dropping balloons.
Another problem is the enemy general, who spends most of his time in a jeep trying to escape. On annihilation mode, this can be a very time-consuming but necessary part of getting the game to end, as his jeep is faster than all of your units and takes a tremendous amount of hits as he goes from one map-edge to the other trying to work out why he can't get off the map.
One more thing is that the camera is frustrating. It only zooms in/out between ground level forward looking and top downward looking (directly overhead), meaning on the actual battle view screen you can't really see any enemy units unless they are really close to you. If you want to know where the enemy is, you need to use the mini map.
Conclusion: with no tech support, a website that has no forum, no online play activity, and one patch in two years, you are pretty much buying what's on the CD. If you're looking for a realistic RTS WW2 wargame (or even semi-realistic), I suggest you start looking somewhere else. If you are just looking for a game where you can pit well-thought out human strategy and tactics against an AI that acts like a bunch of schoolchildren running out of school at playtime (and still lose because a single infantryman spams you with grenades whilst being shot 50 times by Tiger tanks), then you've got it right here!
2 / 10